Former Van Zandt County chief deputy gets 44 months in prison for striking handcuffed arrestee
Former sergeant also sentenced to probation
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A federal judge sentenced a former Van Zandt County chief deputy to 44 months in prison Wednesday for striking a “handcuffed and compliant” arrestee in the face.
Speaking in a Tyler federal courtroom, Craig Shelton said he accepted full responsibility for violating the victim’s civil rights in Nov. 2021. Shelton also acknowledged his desire for drug and alcohol counseling, which was included in his sentence. Following his release from federal prison, Shelton will be on supervised release for three years.
In a victim impact statement read by federal prosecutors, the victim said they now feel “paranoid, humiliated, and scared” as a result of Shelton’s actions.
“The only reason they stopped is because they got caught,” the victim said in the written statement.
Former Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Sgt. Blake Snell also was sentenced Wednesday in an obstruction of justice case resulting from the 2021 incident involving Shelton. Snell was accused of lying to investigators about the incident, according to information presented in court.
On Wednesday morning, a Tyler federal judge accepted a plea agreement that sentenced Snell to probation for one year with fines waived.
Speaking in court, Snell apologized for his actions and said the consequences are the result of his “poor decisions.”
“I’m extremely sorry,” Snell said.
When approached by KLTV, both Shelton and Snell declined comment following the sentencings.
Shelton was a member of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office for one year, spanning from Jan. 1, 2021, to Jan. 14, 2022, according to his TCOLE personnel file. He previously served in a reserve role with the Smith County Constable Pct. 1′s Office in 2019 and as chief of police with the Whitehouse Police Department until July 2015.
Shelton resigned from the Whitehouse Police Department in 2015 following an incident involving an officer’s estranged wife, Jessica Johnson. Shelton was charged with assault for “grabbing and pushing her” during the visit. A lawsuit later filed by Johnson claimed Shelton touched her chest, grabbed her head, and groped other private areas.
The assault charges were later dismissed due to false testimony. The incident led to several lawsuits filed against the City of Whitehouse, including one filed by Johnson’s husband, Leland Johnson, and Whitehouse officers Curtis Dinger and Scott Bradley. This incident was not considered in Shelton’s sentencing.
Shelton has until June 30 to report to his assigned federal facility.
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